27 September 2009

Ghost Stories

Jeff Ford is looking for recommendations of ghost stories:
My students are presently writing ghost stories. I want to make a list of 10 of the greatest ghost stories for them to check out. What I'm looking for is your absolute favorite one (short story) -- what you believe to be the best ghost story ever written. If you have a suggestion, please post it. No need to mention "The Turn of the Screw" by James -- that's already on the list. For my very favorite, I'm torn between "The Return of Imray" by Kipling and "The Hell Screen" by Akutagawa.
I chimed in with various folks recommending the work of Robert Aickman, a writer I had encountered some years back when I first got a copy of The Dark Descent, but I wasn't a sophisticated enough reader yet to understand his tales, so thought they were pointless and boring. Returning to him this past year, I suddenly discovered he was much more fascinating than I had noticed before, and I dug through various old paperbacks and magazine back issues I had in search of his stories, then found inexpensive used copies of Cold Hand in Mine, Painted Devils, and Night Voices (the latter I got really lucky with after searching the Internet for months for a copy for under $30). Inevitably, some of the stories don't do anything for me, but when I manage to connect with one -- which is more often than not -- the effect is astounding. "The Stains" is my current favorite, one of the most disturbing stories I know, its power in some ways akin to the effect certain of Christopher Priest's novels have on me.

As Jeff says in one of his replies, it would be nice if a publisher in the U.S. would release a book or two of Aickman's work. (In the U.K., there are some Faber & Faber editions still in print.) Surely somebody at a U.S. small press thinks Aickman is worth keeping in print and introducing to a new generation...?

Oh, and if anybody out there is independently wealthy and wants to buy the Collected Strange Stories for me for my birthday, I won't complain...

8 comments:

  1. Ellen found me Aickman for relatively cheap on the internet, so I bought a copy of Painted Devils. It better be good, Cheney. That's all I have to say.

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  2. That was me.

    JF

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  3. Beloved is a ghost story, though it has a lot more too it as well.

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  4. I saw this post and thought immediately of Aikman- sort of sad to see you beat me to the punch :)

    That said, the man is probably my favorite writer of all time. His work is a HUGE inspiration for Glass Coffin Girls....esp. two short stories which are remixes of his...

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  5. So happy to see you mention Aickman! "The Stains" is among my favorites as well. "The Swords" and "The Fetch" are also up there.

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  6. If you're interested in Aickman, you may also enjoy Elizabeth Jane Howard's "Three Miles Up," a story that originally appeared in a volume she co-wrote with Aickman, WE ARE FOR THE DARK. As I recall, the book contains six stories, three by each author. (One of the Aickman contributions is "The Trains," one of the most atmospheric but baffling stories in his oeuvre.) "Three Miles Up" is one of those rare stories that I immediately re-read. It's very much in the same vein as Aickman. And very chilling.

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